ESPN projection picks the Rockets to finish with the best record in the NBA

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

ESPN’s real plus-minus statistic predicts the Houston Rockets will finish not only first in the Western Conference, but also as the best team in the NBA.

The Houston Rockets have huge expectations heading into next year. Their starting back court, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, has won two of the last three NBA MVP’s and secured the last three scoring titles.

Harden and Westbrook’s ability to carry an offense on their shoulders is nearly unparalleled, and now that they’re on the same team, the Rockets are widely expected to finish near the top in regular season wins.

In fact, the Rockets will win the most games in the 2019-20 season according to ESPN. Using real plus-minus statistics, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton projected the Rockets to finish first in the league in wins at 53.7 on average.

.@kpelton projected every NBA team's win-loss record using real plus-minus. Here's how the postseason stacked up.

All 30 teams (E+):

— ESPN (@espn) August 17, 2019

This is a very fair projection by ESPN. The Lakers and the Clippers have multiple superstars, but they haven’t been able to develop chemistry. The Nuggets have chemistry, but they only have one superstar, and their superstar isn’t a top 5 player like James Harden, LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard. The Rockets have two superstars, but they also have chemistry as the core of the team from last season is mostly the same. Sure, they swapped Chris Paul for Westbrook, but Westbrook and Harden played together for three seasons in OKC and they’ve known each other since they were kids. Harden and Paul built chemistry pretty quickly in the 2017-18 season, and the same should be true for Harden and Westbrook.

Hopefully, ESPN’s prediction for the Rockets as the league’s best team is correct, but I’m also curious to see how accurate their other predictions will be by the end of next season. Some people may raise an eyebrow at Denver finishing ahead of the Clippers and Lakers. Also, the Mavericks finishing as a seventh seed ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs seems fairly bold.

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In the East, I’d have the Sixers finishing ahead of the Celtics and having the Orlando Magic finish fourth is a bit ambitious for that team.

Either way, it’s great to see that the advanced numbers skew heavily in Houston’s favor. Hopefully, that can translate into a great regular season and a deep run in the playoffs.